In this instructable, I show you how to distress painted wood furniture using 2 distressing techniques.
I built 2 identical console tables using scrap 2x4s and 2x6s for some friends. These are the same friends I built the distressed farmhouse pantry door for earlier this year.
Since the 2 console tables are not my design, I didn't record or document the build. If you are interested in building these console tables, I included a link to the plans at the bottom of this post.
In order to match the rustic and shabby chic decor in my friend's home, I used 2 different furniture distressing techniques on each console table.
Distressing painted furniture usually involves applying stain, wax, and/or sanding the painted surface.
Essentially, distressing techniques make new furniture look old.
At the end of this post, please leave me a comment and let me know which technique you like best!
Step 1: Paint Wood Furniture
First, I painted each piece of furniture with white semi-gloss paint.
This is the first step for both distressing techniques. Furthermore, it makes no difference if the painted furniture is old or new.
I find semi-gloss or satin/eggshell paint works best for distressing painted furniture.
The semi-gloss sheen makes it easier to wipe off wood stain or wax as I'll show you in later in this article. Keep in mind, flat or matte paint can be distressed.
However, I find I work harder and don't have as much control over the distressing process.
Additionally, I always use the cheapest paint I can find when I know I plan to distress wood furniture. Ultimately, it makes no sense to paint with expensive paint for furniture distressing projects.
Step 2: Distressing Technique With Stain
For the first distressing technique, I used varathane weathered gray wood stain.
I like using gray wood stain on white paint because it produces a vintage look.
Also, this blends well with antique and farmhouse decor.
Ultimately, any color stain works for distressing painted furniture.
For example, I used light blue and coral wood stain to distress furniture for a coastal beach look. I use light stain on dark paint and dark stain on light paint.
One of the console tables needed to match the farmhouse pantry door, so I used the same distressing technique.
Step 3: Distressing Technique With Stain: Apply Stain
First, I applied the gray stain with a chip brush in small sections in order to prevent the stain from drying, which makes it difficult to remove.
I use chip brushes to apply stain simply because they are cheap.
Also, brushes work better than rags for this furniture distressing technique.
Step 4: Distressing Technique With Stain: Remove Stain
First, I used a shop rag to wipe the stain.
Stain absorbs into the paint regardless of how much I wiped the surface. Essentially, this is supposed to happen.
It's also difficult to remove the stain from the seams, corners, and other hard to reach places with a rag. Again, this is supposed to happen.
Ultimately, this makes the furniture appear as if it were naturally distressed.
As a quick tip, I find it helpful to have 2 or 3 rags available. It becomes difficult to remove stain as the rags get saturated with stain.
Once I achieved the distressed look, I moved to the next section.
As I mentioned previously, the semi-gloss paint really allows me to control the distressed look and work much faster.
Step 5: Wax Distressing Technique
For the second furniture distressing technique, I used the same process as the first technique.
However, I used dark creme wax instead of stain. This wax is normally used with chalk paint, but can be used on raw wood or painted surfaces as well.
Step 6: Wax Distressing Technique: Apply Wax
First, I used a chip brush to apply the dark creme wax to the painted furniture.
I noticed the creme wax dries very quickly. Consequently, I worked in smaller sections.
Additionally, it blends more deeply into the paint than stain.
Since the wax dries very quickly, the chip brush became stiff after the first 2 sections.
As a result, I used my hand with a latex glove to apply the wax.
I found this to be much easier and faster as well.
Step 7: Wax Distressing Technique: Remove Wax
I removed the wax with multiple rags until I achieved my desired distressed look.
Step 8: Protect Distressed Finish
To protect and preserve the distressed finish, I used 3 coats of polycrylic.
I lightly hand sanded with 220 grit sandpaper between coats.
Step 9: Distressing Technique Comparison
Ultimately, both furniture distressing techniques produced awesome results.
The dark creme wax produced a more distressed antique look.
I used the entire can of wax for the console table and the can was $10.00.
Also, the wax required a bit more elbow grease.
The stain produced a vintage look and was a bit easier to apply and control.
Also, the stain goes a very long way. I could probably distress 15 to 20 console tables with one can of stain.
The 32 ounce can of stain was $16.00.
Step 10: Final Thoughts
In summary, I prefer to distress furniture with stain.
It's more forgiving, cheaper, and I like the vintage style look.
Let me know in the comments which technique you like better.
I hope this project provided you with value.
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